“Why Standpoint Matters” By Alison Wylie

In the beginning parts of the writing by Wylie, she brings out a clear outline of the two theses that a researched and thought out standpoint theory must steer away from to stand as a valid point of view. Firstly, an effective standpoint theory must steer away from any supposition of social categories according to their essentialist definitions as well as the common delineations and terms that characterize epistemic standpoints. The second thesis raised by Wylie in Why Standpoint Matters is that an effective standpoint theory must not maintain the notion that members of a given epistemic category class are automatically more in the know compared to others in the society based on social or political status and location.

  1. Identify two claims that have to be true in order for the author’s thesis to be true.

Because there are two distinct theses identified by Wylie in Why Standpoint Matters, it is apparent that there must be at least two true claims to validate the author’s arguments. The first claim that must be true to validate Wylie’s theses in Why Standpoint Matters is that the common definitions and perceptions of a given ideology cannot form the core basis of what is considered factual regarding the notion. The implication here is that what is already known about a subject cannot stand in the way of new information that may change the perception surrounding the issue. The second claim that must be factual for the theses of Wylie in Why Standpoint Matters to remain true is that people regardless of their social and economic background have an equivalent contribution in terms of new knowledge and understanding. This second claim purports that all humans and human societies expose people to an adequate amount of natural knowledge that can drive standpoint theories equally regardless of wealth and social class.

  1. See if you can identify a weakness in, or a potential objection to, the author’s argument?

Although its influence on the overall thesis is minimal, one weakness from Why Standpoint Matters is Wylie’s failure to factor in other influences such as race and ethnicity in the creation of standpoint theories. Cultural as well as environmental influences have a significant contribution to make towards the formation of individual perceptions and therefore must factor into the feminist conceptualization of social constructs. Although some notions are formed without the impact of societal biases, they are an important consideration in the quest to conduct thorough research.

Why would it matter if the weakness were there?

In my opinion, the weakness regarding failure to include the contributions of background and environment would make a significant difference in the perspective held by Wylie in Why Standpoint Matters. This is because including these variables would shed light on the roles that social class and wealth have on human understanding especially in a social perspective. Even though the implications may be mostly negative, it is still difficult to rule out social status as a factor in the formation of standpoint theories as well as feminist perspectives.

  1. Why is what the author is saying important? Or is it?

Assertions of Wylie in Why Standpoint Matters are significant and important because she provides what comes out as a concise and well-structured discussion concerning how objectivity and neutrality correlate with the notions of an epistemic advantage as well as the standpoint theory. On the one part, Wylie points out how the standpoint theory is both an acknowledgment of one’s social influences as well as a vision to develop a critical awareness of these external influences and a willingness to grow into a new understanding of feminism. This is an important revelation in that it presents the reader with a revelation into the importance of perspective with regards to feminism. Additionally, Wylie’s assertions are important because they provide a look into the criticisms and faults of the standpoint theory as it pertains to feminist philosophy. Wylie also dismisses the standpoint theory claiming that it is a mere criticism of a political standpoint, which is a significant insight into perspective thinking.

  1. Explain the difference between the author’s thesis and the thesis of another article we have read on a similar topic.

The thesis and argument raised by Wylie differ from the mindset maintained by Patricia Collins in Black Feminist Thought. On her part, Collins maintains the argument that women from the black community occupy a unique perspective concerning the oppression and discrimination that they undergo in the society. She attributes the faulty perspective maintained by black women firstly on the gender differences that come about economically and politically in human society. In her assertions, Wylie does not place significant emphasis on the contribution of racial differences to the skewed perception or standpoint on feminism. Additionally, Collins attributes the misappropriation of black feminism to the outcomes relating to the consciousness that black women have come to acquire regarding material reality. While Wylie contends that feminist thought as a whole has been skewed, Collins introduces the reality of the differences that females from minority races of the world must face with regards to such basic things as common law as well as societal perception.

  1. To your mind, what is the most interesting thing about this article?

I would say that the most interesting aspect of Why Standpoint Matters is the introduction of an inside-outside argument to the conceptualization of standpoint theory from a feminist perspective. Wylie applies illustrative perceptions from literature to bring out the distinctive advantages that come with this perspective. The introduction of the character Blanche as depicted in the writings of Barbara Neely helps to test out the level of open-mindedness because the perception of this portion of the reading is heavily dependent on the reader. This part is interesting to me because Wylie allows the reader to exercise some level of imaginative freedom in determining how they will understand the role and significance of Barbara Neely’s literature to the current discourse on feminism as well as the standpoint theory. Apart from this, I like the part because it deviates from the original tone of the writing and appears as some narrative, which is a welcome break in the monotony.

  1. What is one the concept or argument in this article that is the least clear to you at this point? How do you understand the concept or argument and what about it remains unclear?

Based on the reading of Why Standpoint Matters, one vital concept that I realized needed additional research regards the standpoint theory. In many instances, people tend to credit their knowledge as the basis of all opinions and arguments. The standpoint theory is a reminder to the human race that a naturalistic conception of what people seem to be knowledge is fundamental to human development and intelligence. From the reading, I was able to understand that the core points of view that a person holds regarding different opinions and issues in life all define some sort of standpoint theory. Due to this reason, I can say that standpoint theories act as a reminder that the decisions and choices of a person have effects and outcomes that go beyond the self. However, I still have several queries regarding the role and implications of standpoint theories to the gender inequality debate. How can the standpoint of an individual remain unaffected by increased awareness, especially in the internet age? This question calls for a deeper understanding of the self and an awareness of the role played by external influences in a person’s school of thought. Without fully acknowledging the self, it is impossible for an individual to withstand the changes in the environment without altering their standpoint. What role does background play in the conceptualization of standpoint theories? Most human decisions are based on the information that the individual deems to be factual or true, which, in most cases, alludes to the teachings of parents and other adults who influence the life of a person as they grow. As such the background of an individual is the first step towards formation of standpoint theories.

Works Cited

Wylie, Alison. “Why Standpoint Matters.” Science and Other Cultures: Issues in Philosophies of Science and Technology. Ed. R. Figueroa and S. Harding. New York: Routledge, 2003. 26-48.




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